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10 Percent Reduction in Speed Promotes Pedestrian Safety; Additional Parking Supports Businesses and Customers; New Bike Lanes a Hit with Cycling Community

SOMERVILLE -Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and
Acting Traffic and Parking Director Matthew Dias announced today that initial
data suggests that the pilot program to calm traffic, promote pedestrian and
bicycle safety, and increase the parking supply in Union Square is working as
intended.  Traffic radar data indicates
that traffic along Bow Street has slowed by an average of ten percent and
bicyclists report that the new bike lane makes the area safer.  By nearly doubling the supply of parking, the
new configuration also helps support additional customer visits, which results
in added revenue for local businesses. 

"We were fairly confident that, once
people got used to the idea, it would make Bow Street safer, more walkable and
more bike-able," said Curtatone. "But I am particularly pleased by the increase
in parking supply, as it allows for additional customers throughout the day,
which can result in additional revenues for our local businesses."

"We're going to continue to monitor the
experiment, but so far, so good," said Dias. "Radar data shows a modest drop in
average speeds, which is something we were hoping for: area residents and
residents from Properzi Manor on Warren Ave had repeatedly expressed concerns
about high-speeds and cut-through traffic. 
We've slowed things down slightly by reducing travel to a single lane,
but the reality is that the pace of traffic is more consistent with what you'd
experience in a mixed-use neighborhood with heavy foot traffic."

"There's also a big, big, plus for
merchants and drivers alike: more parking equals more customer convenience and
the potential for more revenue for local businesses," said Dias, citing a Union
Square Main Streets survey that shows the average Union Square customer spends
about $50 dollars per visit.  "The new
spaces create the ability to accommodate about 100 additional business trips
per day - and we know the spaces are getting used.  That could mean, for example, an extra $5,000
per day in added business opportunities, or over $100,000 per month from
drivers alone.  We don't yet know the
extent to which the added bicycle and foot traffic is also helping local

"A safe and pleasant pedestrian
environment is key for the success of nearly every small business in Union
Square and the changes on Bow Street are helping to create that, said Mimi
Graney, Executive Director of Union Square Main Streets.  "It's easier to
cross the street and safer to travel on bike as the vehicles move through
smoothly and at a less frantic pace. The new twist on parking is still awkward
for some drivers, but as it's becoming more familiar, I'm seeing more parking
in the area, especially on busy Saturdays."

One aspect of the changed configuration -
the new bicycle lane - has already been well received by intended users.  Judging by comments on the City's Facebook
page, most cyclists are pleased with the change.  A June 3rd post to the City's
Facebook page, by self-identified cyclist Ian Kennedy, was dismissive: "I drive
and bike regularly through Union. This makes doing both more of a pain.  Nice in theory but a mess in practice."   Most other bike riders, however, expressed
satisfaction with the change.  The same
day, Cynthia Conrod Finney posted: "Slower traffic and a bike lane and more
parking.  What's not to like?" Also on
June 3rd, Somerville Bicycle Committee member Ron Newman noted "This
should make it easier to bike through Union Square," while area resident Laurinda
Bedingfield posted, "Yup, it makes it easier to bike and walk down there.  If you live there it is a big improvement."

"Although we still have a ways to go, the
results so far have been very encouraging," said Dias."We continue to work on
several issues, such as loading zones and congestion, but if Bow Street
continues to work as well as it has to date, I think it could be worth
exploring in other business areas that suffer from cut-through traffic but
would prefer to cultivate a more relaxed, calmer, and business-friendly
streetscape with additional parking spaces for local businesses and customers."  


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